FCC Boots Indecency Complaints

Episodes of Will & Grace and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are off the hook for indecency complaints filed against stations that aired the programs. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the episodes in question did not violate its standards for what is appropriate for TV when kids are likely to be in the audience.

Americans for Decency and other groups complained about a Will & Grace episode that aired March 31, 2003, on KSAZ Phoenix and featured two female guest characters kissing passionately and then engaging in a “dry hump.”

The FCC found that the scene was not sufficiently explicit or graphic to be considered indecent. “Both characters are fully clothed, and there is no evidence that the activity depicted was dwelled upon or was used to pander, titillate or shock the audience.”

An FCC official said complaints regarding five other Will & Grace episodes remain under review.

On Monday, the FCC also dismissed the Parents Television Council’s complaint about a Nov. 20, 2001, installment of Buffy on WDCA Washington. The scene in question depicted Buffy kissing and straddling a male character.

PTC, which filed the complaint against all UPN licensees airing the episode, alleged that Buffy and the adult male were portrayed as having sex after she climbed on top him. The FCC said the scene was “non-explicit” and no action against the stations is warranted. The complaint was the only one outstanding against Buffy.

Indecency programming is banned between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The FCC took the rare step of posting the dismissals on its Web page (www.fcc.gov).

Usually rejections of indecency complaints are quietly issued to parties in the case, with no outside notice to the public.
But the FCC is in the middle of a high-profile and controversial crackdown on broadcast indecency, and publicizing the decisions allows the FCC to demonstrate that it is not blindly issuing sanctions at the whim of activists.